ORLANDO – Indianapolis Colts left guard Quenton Nelson may not have capped his rookie season by playing in Sunday's Pro Bowl if it weren't for Bears offensive line coach Harry Hiestand.
As Nelson's position coach at Notre Dame, Hiestand helped the 6-5, 330-pounder develop into not only a top NFL prospect but a generational talent according to some scouts.
"He's the best coach I've ever had," Nelson told ChicagoBears.com during Pro Bowl festivities in Orlando. "I really appreciate everything that he's done for me. I wouldn't be in the situation I am without him, and the Bears are lucky to have him."
Nelson was a three-year starter at Notre Dame, where he was a unanimous All-American selection as a junior in 2017. After being chosen by the Colts with the sixth overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Nelson was named first-team All-Pro and voted to the Pro Bowl as a rookie after starting all 16 games.
Hiestand began coaching Nelson in 2014 when the New Jersey native redshirted as a freshman.
"He was the biggest part to my career," Nelson said. "When I got to Notre Dame, I wasn't the best football player by any means. I wasn't very good, and he just helped me improve every single day. He brought that energy and the attitude every day that we're going to improve. In the meeting rooms he was very intense, [with an] attention to detail when we were watching film on how I could improve and get my technique better, and then on the field."
Nelson described Hiestand as a "great coach and a great teacher."
"Him caring about his players would probably be his greatest strength," Nelson said. "I feel like you want to play your best game for him because of how much he cares about you as a player and as a person."
Tremendous leader: Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowl receiver Tyreek Hill wasn't surprised that Matt Nagy led the Bears to a 12-4 record and the NFC North title in his first season as head coach.
In Nagy's two seasons as Chiefs offensive coordinator, Hill caught 61 passes for 593 yards and six touchdowns in 2016 and followed with 75 receptions for 1,183 yards and seven TDs in 2017.
"I feel that Nagy is a tremendous leader," Hill said. "The Bears got a great coach, in my opinion. He's very creative. He's a Sean McVay-type of coach. Both of those guys are amazing coaches."
Praising Pagano: Colts quarterback Andrew Luck feels just as strongly about new Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, who served as Indianapolis' head coach during Luck's first six NFL seasons from 2012-17.
"Chuck's the man; I love him," said Luck, who returned to the Pro Bowl this season for the first time since he was voted to the game in each of his first three seasons. "He helped me grow so much as a player, so much as a person.
"He loves football. He's going to challenge men, he's going to challenge men to grow and he'll expect them to challenge him back. He's a great coach. He knows his stuff. The Bears are lucky to have him."